Congress needs to pass rogue sites bill to protect the Internet

Legislation is pending before Congress to combat a dangerous form of Internet fraud and abuse. Criminals are using rogue websites – often cunningly designed to resemble legitimate online destinations – to sell counterfeit goods of all kinds, as well as to offer pirated copies of copyrighted materials. By flooding the U.S. market with illicit products, these sites steal U.S. jobs, undermine our economy, and threaten consumer health and safety. These operations are often set up overseas, in countries like China that show little respect for intellectual property (IP), and are therefore effectively beyond the reach of U.S. law enforcement.

Rogue sites legislation—the Senate’s PROTECT IP Act (S. 968) and the House of Representatives’ Stop Online Piracy Act (H.R. 3261), propose measures that would enhance the tools available to fight these rogue websites and the damages they cause.  If passed, the legislation would authorize the Justice Department to ask federal courts to order Internet service providers to block access to sites that have been determined to be “dedicated to [the] infringement” of IP rights.

The bills contain strict proof requirements for the “rogue site” determination, as well as strong due process safeguards to reduce any risk to legitimate online activities. But recently, a few opponents of the legislation have raised another objection:  that the bill “DNS blocking” technique of blocking access to specified websites—regardless of how carefully it is done and how closely it is supervised by federal courts—is risky, unprecedented, and threatens to “break the Internet.”


Use the market to allocate spectrum

Congress is now considering legislation to grant the FCC new authority to hold voluntary incentive auctions for spectrum.  This legislation would alleviate shortages of spectrum that are threatening to hold back the development of a wireless broadband platform capable of competing with wireline platforms.  It would boost the economy and advance our progress toward a more efficient, market-oriented spectrum regime.
The incentive-auction idea, which came out of the Obama Administration’s Broadband Task Force, is aimed at freeing up some of the 120 MHz of spectrum currently used by broadcast TV to make it available for the new wireless uses—primarily broadband—that consumers (and businesses) are demanding.  The benefits of such a move are clear:  while wireless broadband use is soaring even though consumers have to pay for it, only about 10 percent of TV viewers watch over over-the-air broadcasting even though it is free. 


LightSquared harms GPS

LightSquared has been trying for nearly a year to show that it can provide new broadband services without seriously undermining the critical GPS uses and applications Americans rely on every day. It has consistently failed to make its case. But that hasn’t slowed down a LightSquared public relations barrage proclaiming solution after solution.  

This time around it’s new equipment that provides a technical fix for interference, “developed in days” by a small GPS company that has a very large commercial interest in LightSquared being allowed to proceed with its proposed nationwide terrestrial broadband network. Earlier this week, Dr. Javad Ashjaee, the developer of the claimed new technology, declared in The Hill that, “Technology has solved the problem, now we just have to wait for the politicians to catch up.” [LightSquared and GPS can coexist, 10/18/2011].

What many of the politicians Dr. Ashjaee so readily dismisses are doing is something LightSquared and Dr. Ashjaee need to emulate, and that’s wait for the facts to be established by real evidence, not press releases.


LightSquared and GPS can coexist

There is a fascinating debate playing out in Washington that will impact nearly every American. It is over whether the federal government should allow an upstart company called LightSquared to enter the telecom market as a new national wireless broadband provider.

Anyone with a cell phone, computer or a tablet, should be paying attention, because LightSquared is proposing to build something that currently does not exist: a high-speed wireless system that reaches almost every corner of America, including underserved rural areas and over-capacity urban areas.

LightSquared proposed investing $14 billion in private dollars on a plan that would bring wireless broadband to 260 million Americans by 2015, and create 15,000 jobs a year over the five-year build out of the network. LightSquared is a satellite company, and its unique model would create the nation’s first broadband system that uses a combination of satellite and cell tower technology. Because satellite signals are ubiquitous, using them as a back up to terrestrial service would eliminate the massive service holes that still exist all over America, bringing high-speed internet for the first time to vast swaths of the country that have never had it.

But of course, nothing is that easy – especially in Washington. The slice of spectrum the government licensed to LightSquared is next to the spectrum allocated to GPS, which is used broadly in America for both public and commercial purposes. And the GPS industry has launched a mighty lobbying and public relations campaign, rife with scare tactics designed to stoke partisan opposition and stop LightSquared.


The problem with PIPA: the Protect IP Act

The self-appointed innovators and their advocates who are pushing the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) are indeed inventive in one key regard -- their propaganda achieves new heights of doublespeak.  Or perhaps the irony is lost on Tom Feeney as he cries “Innovation!'” in his efforts to enact policy that would undermine the greatest engine of creation humanity has ever known: the Internet.

The entertainment industry's supposed creatives are reprising an awfully familiar role as they push PIPA:  Remember when "home taping was killing music" at the dawn of the cassette recorder era?  Rather than catch up with the times, these lumbering dinosaurs want to drag the rest of us back into prehistory -- Feeney once even advocated withholding federal funding from universities whose students download copyrighted content.


Congress needs to shut down rogue websites

Article I of the Constitution authorizes Congress “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”  The philosophy is typically American – give authors and innovators property rights for their creations and, in return, America receives more and better innovation. The statement is, perhaps, the highest expression of free market capitalism and property protection anywhere in the Constitution.

Experience tells us that this philosophy works, but only when the property rights are secured by the rule of law.  Permitting thieves to siphon off the value of the property undermines both the system and the individual’s incentive to create, innovate and develop.  Property owners rely on law enforcement and the courts to protect them from that illegal misappropriation.

Today, the intellectual property of any creation placed online is threatened, and America's innovators must have assurance that their products will not be used without their permission.  Too many websites are being operated by sophisticated pirates for the purpose of stealing America's most innovative and creative products.  These often elaborate and well-designed sites appear legitimate but are actually criminal enterprises that sell unsafe counterfeit products like prescription drugs or faulty electronics, provide illegal downloads of copyrighted materials like movies or music, and, in some cases, are involved in identity theft and the spread of malicious computer viruses.


Dial “J” for Jobs: Why antitrust concerns should not impede the AT&T/T-Mobile alliance

The Department of Justice suit against AT&T/T-Mobile seems contrary to the goals of the administration.  Challenging a deal which promises to save thousands of American jobs, and has the potential to create new jobs, will undermine the President’s renewed focus on job creation.   Over 9.2 percent of Americans remain unemployed and restoring economic growth is the nation's most critical priority.
Our antitrust laws play a small but important role in helping to spur employment.  Sound antitrust enforcement can spur economic growth by eliminating unnecessary barriers to entry, or by protecting rivalry.  When antitrust enforcement is used prudently, the benefits of greater competition not only lead to lower prices and output, but hopefully greater job growth.  However, the DOJ’s suit has the possibility to prevent hope for job growth.
The impact on job growth and job preservation is critical to the ongoing debate on the AT&T – T-Mobile merger.  The opponents to the merger sound the alarm that the deal will eliminate thousands of American jobs.  Attacks on the merger that are premised on job losses, however, are ultimately unfounded for several reasons.


Are consumers at the mercy of Google?

The Senate Antitrust Subcommittee has called Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt to testify during a hearing examining online competition.  Google seemingly showers consumers with dozens of free services—and connects us to other businesses—so why is its chairman being called to DC?
The issues involve threat to consumer privacy and anticompetitive risks that limit market choices and innovation.  Members of the U.S. Senate are right to ask Schmidt some tough questions about how Google operates, its 100-plus mergers and how its operations impact consumers and healthy marketplace competition.
Whether you realize it or not, Google is virtually impossible to avoid on the Internet. The company’s dominant position in search, search advertising, mobile search, online video, mapping, and website analytics means Google constantly collects your data.  And Google is now leveraging its dominant position to move into other markets, including travel, local information services and mobile phones.


The research and development gap

America is in grave danger of loosing its edge. For over one hundred years, American leadership in science, technology, engineering, and manufacturing has been unrivaled. It has created for us not only one of the highest standards of living any civilization has ever achieved, but also brought American preeminence in the world and a strong national defense.

Now, unfortunately, this is all at risk due to the lack of long-term planning, little political will, and slowing investment in science and engineering research.

As every business leader knows, prosperity tomorrow requires investment today. This is true whether the economy is in a period of boom or bust. The United States will not simply “grow” its way out of economic malaise. We need a rebirth of innovation: new products, new ways of doing things, new scientific achievements.


Google's big bet on the mobile future

From the debt ceiling debate to presidential primary rhetoric, national politics are whipping into a partisan frenzy in the march to the 2012 elections. At the moment, the hot air has had a largely deflationary effect on the nation’s spirits (and markets)—leaving the public wondering what our leaders can do to get the one in five un- or under-employed Americans back to work.

Against this bleak backdrop, the U.S. innovation community is buzzing over the fresh news of Google’s bullish $12.5 billion bet on the mobile future. The mega-deal to acquire Motorola Mobility is the largest acquisition yet for the company. And, it puts the online search giant squarely into the device-making business—and right into the competitive crosshairs of Apple and other manufacturers of modern, must-have smartphones and tablets.